It was a memorable season for the Green Bay Packers, but one that ultimately ended similarly to the last.

The Packers went down to a frustrating NFC Championship Game defeat to eventual champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one year on from losing at the same stage to the San Francisco 49ers.

In between those events, Aaron Rodgers put together a sensational season to be named NFL MVP for the third time.

Rodgers responded perfectly to the Packers trading up and drafting his potential replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round of the 2020 draft, puzzlingly eschewing the help at wide receiver he appeared to need.

Consecutive 13-3 seasons under Matt LaFleur are to be applauded.

But one Super Bowl ring seems an unfair return for a quarterback of Rodgers’ quality, so it is time for the Packers front office to do more to get him over the hump as his career enters its latter years.

We have used Stats Perform data to scrutinise how they might go about doing it on the evidence of their 2020 campaign.

Offense

Led by a remarkable season from Rodgers, who threw for a career-high 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions, the Green Bay offense was rolling.

There were calls ahead of the season for further receiving threats to be brought in to complement number one option Davante Adams.

While those did not arrive, passing to the first-team All-Pro was a cheat code in 2020, with Adams racking up 115 catches, 1,374 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns in 14 regular season games.

The Packers were ninth with 256.6 net passing yards per game, but that figure came with them having the least attempts (526) of any top-10 passing offense, suggesting they often had much more in the tank if it was needed.

Similar can be said for their 57 completions of 20+ yards, which ranked ninth in the league. When Rodgers did go deep, they were highly effective and the average yards gained on those throws was 33.1, third best in the NFL.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling emerged as an impressive deep threat, averaging 44.8 yards per catch on the 10 of those 20+ yard plays he accounted for. His overall record of 20.9 yards per reception from 33 catches was the NFL's best.

The Packers' run game was strong, with 134.2 yards per game good for eighth in the NFL, while they were 16th for runs of 10+ yards with 49 such plays. Running backs contributed in the pass game too, with only Adams and tight end Robert Tonyan having more catches for the team than Aaron Jones' 47.

There may still be calls for Rodgers to be handed a stronger supporting cast, but after such an impressive year they may not be as loud this offseason, with attention perhaps better focused on other areas of the roster.

Defense

The Packers' defense was better than average in 2020 and, with a rampant Rodgers leading the offense, a defensive unit like that is all you need to contend.

In terms of headline numbers, they were ninth in yards allowed (334) and 13th in points allowed (23.1). The pass defense was seventh in yards per game (221), while they were 13th against the run.

Green Bay registered 41 sacks (10th), allowed 5.49 yards per play (14th) and their opponents’ scoring efficiency was 16th in the NFL, so you need to dive deeper to before finding anything alarming.

One area for improvement is the need for more game-changing plays. The Packers had 18 takeaways, putting them in a tie for 25th, while they only forced 26 rushing plays to result in negative yardage (tied for 28th).

A bend but do not break defensive strategy appears to have largely fared well, but playmakers can change those one-off postseason games where the margins are so fine, and the Packers do not have too many of those.

On the plus side, the defense allowed just 48 big plays of 20+ yards (third in the NFL).

However, nine of those went for TDs and Green Bay fans will not forget cornerback Kevin King's struggles against the Bucs in a hurry.

Pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith was not as productive as last year but still registered team-leading figures of 12.5 sacks, 12 TFL and 23 QB hits.

He could do with improved support up front, while the spot opposite lockdown cornerback Jaire Alexander looks like one which could do with reinforcing.

On the whole, there is room for improvement but a solid base to build from.

Offseason

Green Bay are not flush with cash as they enter the offseason around $4.5million over the estimated cap ($185m).

On the plus side, they do not have too many top contributors hitting free agency.

Retaining or replacing one of the NFL's top centers, Corey Linsley, is a key priority.

Both running backs, Jones and Jamaal Williams, are also poised to hit the market, so it may be difficult to retain both of them, especially if they want to justify drafting AJ Dillon in round two a year ago. He only played 97 offensive snaps in the regular season.

King did his free agency hopes few favours in the playoffs, while offensive line may be an area of focus after the departure of tackle Rick Wagner, who played in every game and started nine.

In terms of incomings, with limited funds Green Bay will need to pick their spots but will know a star veteran could make all the difference.

With Rodgers in fine fettle and with LaFleur overseeing a team proven to be contenders, you can expect them to be connected with any high-profile free agents who hit the open market.

That has already been the case with recently released Houston Texans icon J. J. Watt, who ultimately joined the Arizona Cardinals.

After his heroics last year, Pack fans will think any impactful signings the front office can make will be a deserving reward for Rodgers, who is back at the top of his game.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers said he is honoured to be named MVP after being crowned the NFL's best player for a third time.

Rodgers capped a stellar 2020 regular season by receiving another Most Valuable Player award on Saturday, having also reigned supreme in 2011 and 2014.

The Packers fell short in the NFC Conference Game, beaten by Super Bowl finalists the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but veteran quarterback Rodgers still enjoyed a memorable campaign.

Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers this season.

His quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

"It's an honour to win this award for the third time," Rodgers said in a pre-pared video acceptance speech. "2020 was definitely a crazy year filled with lots of change, growth, some amazing memorable moments, 180 straight days of having my nose hairs scraped, playing for very little fans or no [fans] the entire season. I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career. "

The 37-year-old Rodgers is now level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Packers great Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

"The guys on that list are guys I grew up watching, idolising," Rodgers said. "To join that list of guys who've won it more than twice is pretty special."

Rodgers became the first QB to lead the league in the categories of touchdown passes, completion percentage, passer rating and interception percentage (1.0) in the same season since 1992, when Steve Young won the first of his two MVPs.

"To have won it in my fourth year as a starter was very special, and now to win it in my 13th year as a starter, in a new offense, is pretty amazing and something I'm really proud of," Rodgers said.

"To have sustained success and to be playing your best football at 37, in my 16th season, is something I take a lot of pride in."

Rodgers added: "I'm really thankful for my team-mates, the way that they played this year. It's so much fun being called upon to be a leader of this football team.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to still be here, to still be the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.

"The success we had this year made the season a lot of fun at a time when there was a lot of turmoil and protocols around coronavirus.

"So I'm thankful for all my guys, all the support from them, having my back, listening to me, questioning me, having great conversations, growing together on the field, and then going out and putting up big-time performances."

If Aaron Rodgers intended to make a statement in the 2020 season, he could hardly have done so more emphatically.

The quarterback's future in Green Bay became a hot topic in the offseason when the franchise surprisingly used their first-round pick in the 2020 draft to seemingly choose his replacement. 

Selecting Jordan Love was obviously part of the long-term plan for the Packers, but Rodgers – who may have hoped for an upgrade in weapons, rather than an apprentice to watch and learn while waiting in the wings – showed he is no mood to relinquish the starting job in a hurry. 

Winning the MVP award for a third time in his career may not ease the disappointment of his team missing out on the Super Bowl, but it is a thoroughly deserved honour following a season that suggests, even at 37, he may just be better than ever. 

The basic numbers are impressive enough: 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent. His quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, just behind... Aaron Rodgers. His 2011 campaign sits top at 122.5, though that year he threw fewer touchdowns (45) and one extra pick. 

Dig a little deeper, though, and you see just why the members of the Associated Press voted the signal-caller as the most valuable player during the regular season. 

 

Old dog, new records

Conventional wisdom suggests Rodgers' career should, at his age, be winding down towards a conclusion. However, the man who helped defeat Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, 43-year-old Tom Brady, has redefined the limits for quarterbacks seemingly in their final years in the game.

And Rodgers produced some NFL firsts as he led Green Bay to the best record in the conference.

No player in NFL history had previously managed to complete at least 70 per cent of their pass attempts while managing a passer rating of at least 120.0 in a season - until this year.

Displaying a devastating ability to carve up defenses while doing a superb job of protecting the football, Rodgers also became the first quarterback to have 40 or more touchdowns while throwing five or fewer interceptions. Two of those picks were in Week 5 against the Buccaneers, the only outing in which he failed to manage a scoring pass.

Davante Adams was, unsurprisingly, his favourite option. The wide receiver was targeted 149 times - putting him fourth on the list for the entire league, behind only Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson.

Running back Aaron Jones was second for the Packers with 63 targets, but Rodgers was willing to share the ball around. On the roster, nine players made it to double figures, among them receiving duo Marquez Valdes-Scantling (63) and Allen Lazard (46), who both finished with 33 catches. Breakout tight end Robert Tonyan, meanwhile, caught all but seven of his 59 targets.

Hat-trick hero

Though Rodgers could not get the better of Brady in either the regular season or the playoffs, he did at least emulate an achievement the six-time Super Bowl champion pulled off during the season widely considered as his greatest.

Rodgers had 12 games with at least three passing touchdowns, tied for the most in a single campaign in NFL history. Brady had reached that same tally in 2007, when he scorched defenses across the league in leading the New England Patriots to an unbeaten 16-0 regular season.

Yet even Brady at that 2007 zenith could not produce what Rodgers did in 10 games in 2020, as he reached double figures with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Of course, it is significantly easier to protect the football when playing with a lead - and Rodgers' extraordinary first-half performances ensured the Packers did a lot of that this season on their way to a second successive 13-3 record under head coach Matt LaFleur.

Stunning in the second quarter

Rodgers threw an incredible 70.8 per cent of his touchdown passes in the opening half, with his total of 34 scores the most ever in an NFL season. The second quarter was clearly his favourite too, with 25 TDs also a new record for a single quarter.

Those remarkable numbers were fuelled partially by Rodgers' dominance over the rest of the NFC North, which was illustrated by him throwing 20 touchdowns with no interceptions in six games against division opponents. No other player has reached that number and avoided being picked off in divisional match-ups.

With the Minnesota Vikings the only realistic threat in the NFC North as the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions plot their next moves at the quarterback, there is no immediate sign of the Packers' grip on the division loosening.

So while Rodgers pondered his future in the aftermath of the Packers' postseason exit, the reality is that, as long as he has the ability to perform at his 2020 levels and Green Bay have control of the NFC North, there is little reason for the newly crowned MVP to look elsewhere to fulfil his ambition of winning a second Lombardi Trophy.

Love may well end up being the future starter for Green Bay, but there is little reason to suggest they are about to move on from a franchise legend just yet.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been crowned the NFL's MVP for a third time.

Rodgers was honoured during Saturday's awards – on the eve of Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – as he added to his 2011 and 2014 MVPs.

The 37-year-old is now level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Packers great Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three Most Valuable Player honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

The Packers fell short in the NFC Conference Game, beaten by Super Bowl finalists the Buccaneers, but Rodgers still enjoyed a memorable campaign.

Packers star Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent this season.

His quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion during the 2010 season – featured in his first NFC title decider at Lambeau Field, but the Packers fell to Brady's Buccaneers 31-26.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald won the Defensive Player of the Year for a third time.

Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt had been tipped to win the award, but Donald maintained his dominance, having also reigned supreme in 2017 and 2018.

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski claimed the Coach of the Year award after leading the franchise to their first postseason victory in 25 years.

Not since the 1994 season had the Browns won a playoff matchup, until upstaging the Steelers before losing to the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round.

 

List of NFL Honors

Rookie of the Year: Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Defensive Player of the Year: Los Angeles Rams DL Aaron Donald
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Offensive Player of the Year: Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Washington DE Chase Young
Comeback Player of the Year: Washington QB Alex Smith
Coach of the Year: Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski
Most Valuable Player: Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has insisted that Aaron Rodgers will be the team's quarterback for next season and beyond. 

Rodgers still has three years remaining on a four-year, $134million extension he signed in August 2018, but his future with the team came into question after comments he made following the 31-26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. 

"He's going to be a part of our future, and we look forward to all the runs we're going to be able to make here over the next few years," Gutekunst said Monday during a Zoom call. 

"I will say this: We're really excited not only for next year but the years to come. He's playing at such a high level that he always has, and I think this year was a special team.

"It didn't finish like we wanted to finish, but I think everybody's purely motivated to get back and I think, like I said, I don't think there's anything that we have to do. He's our quarterback, and he's our leader." 

After the game against the Bucs on January 24, Rodgers said: ''There's a lot of guys' futures that are uncertain, myself included.'' 

Two days later, the 37-year-old tried to squash any rumour that he would not be returning to Green Bay. ''I don't think there's any reason why I wouldn't be back," he said on SiriusXM Radio's The Pat McAfee Show.

Led by Rodgers, the Packers completed a second straight 13-3 season in 2020, while winning a seventh NFC North crown since 2011. The team averaged an NFL-best 31.8 points per game - second highest in franchise history behind the 35.0 points per game averaged by the 2011 team.  

''Obviously he's under contract, and he's playing at an extremely high level,'' Gutekunst said. ''What we're trying to do as an organization and what we're trying to accomplish, we can't do without Aaron Rodgers right now. He's such a part of what we've done. He's such a part of what we're doing right now and certainly in the future.'' 

Rodgers helped Green Bay to a fourth NFC championship game in the last seven seasons, but the Packers are winless in NFC title games since Rodgers lead the franchise to its fourth Super Bowl championships in the 2010 season. 

Despite the postseason shortcomings, Packers coach Matt LaFleur echoed Gutekunst's viewpoint when asked about Rodgers being his quarterback. 

"Is that a trick question?" LaFleur said. "Absolutely. There's no doubt about it."

The subject of Rodgers' future in Green Bay began back in April when the Packers traded up to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th pick of the first round. 

Rodgers' play on the field, however, has not given the Packers any reason to turn the keys of the offense over to Love. 

The favourite to win a third NFL MVP award this Saturday, Rodgers threw for a league-leading and career-best 48 touchdowns to just five interceptions this past season. He also threw for 4,299 yards to become the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards with 45 or more TD passes and five or fewer interceptions in a season. 

''You're talking about the guy that's going to win the MVP of the league,'' LaFleur said. ''We're not in this position without him.

"I couldn't be happier with just not only his performance but how he led our football team, all the little things he does within that locker room to ensure that everybody is locked in, focused and ready to go. Absolutely he will be here for a long time.'' 

Fortune favours the bold. It is a phrase has been used so often that it has become a worn-out cliche. But cliches are cliches because they consistently ring true, and that famous Latin proverb applied at Lambeau Field on Sunday as the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers suffered more playoff heartache.

Their forlorn efforts in last year's NFC Championship game rout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers still fresh in their minds - defensive coordinator Mike Pettine showed the game to his group last week in an attempt at motivation - the Packers reached the same stage this season seemingly well placed to put those memories behind them and reach Super Bowl LV.

The top seed in the NFC, the Packers matched up significantly better with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than they did the Niners last year and had the potentially crucial advantage of playing in freezing conditions at Lambeau Field in front of 8,500 fans.

And yet, with the chance to force a compelling back-and-forth encounter into overtime, the Packers - specifically their head coach Matt LaFleur - shied away from the opportunity, taking a conservative approach that ultimately proved their undoing.

LaFleur's costly caution

Green Bay faced a fourth and goal from the Tampa Bay eight-yard line trailing 31-23 with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

If LaFleur had needed evidence of how to approach this situation, it came at the end of the first half when, rather than punting and settling for a 14-10 half-time lead, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians went for it on fourth down and, a play after converting to keep the drive alive, gave Tom Brady the green light to launch a 39-yard bomb to Scotty Miller that put Tampa Bay 21-10 to the good.

Rodgers and the Green Bay defense helped the Packers recover from a 28-10 third-quarter deficit and move into striking distance. However, when it came time to make a crucial decision, LaFleur ignored the old axiom and instead opted for caution, taking the ball out of the hands of his best player as he elected to kick a field goal and trust his defense to get the ball back.

It was a task that proved beyond them as a contentious pass interference penalty gave Tampa a game-sealing first down, leaving Rodgers to reflect on another year in which the Packers came up short.

Wondrous Rodgers

LaFleur's rejection of the aggressive approach that served Arians well at the end of the second quarter ensured that one of the best seasons of Rodgers' Hall of Fame career was wasted.

Rodgers is a near-lock to win the third MVP of his career after a season in which he took an offense of the Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay ilk to new heights.

He led the league in completion percentage 70.7, threw for 4,299 yards, a league-leading 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

His TD-INT ratio of 9.60 was the sixth-best in NFL history and second among quarterbacks to have played 16 games in a season, behind his 2018 mark of 12.50.

Tied for third in the NFL with 37 passing plays of 25 yards or more, few offenses were more explosive than that of the Packers in 2020, with Rodgers' adjusted net yards per attempt figure of 8.89 tied for sixth of all-time.

That is the same number Patrick Mahomes posted in his 2018 MVP season and, just like the Kansas City Chiefs that year, the end result for the Packers was a devastating loss.

Unlike the Chiefs, the Packers now face the prospect of significant changes in the offseason that could impact their ability to continue to contend in the NFC.

A challenging offseason

In an offseason where the salary cap could shrink to $175million, the Packers may lose center Corey Linsley and running back Aaron Jones to free agency, while Davante Adams, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (18) and yards per game (98.1) in the regular season, is a candidate for a lucrative contract extension.

The Packers, therefore, face some tough decisions in the offseason and it is the lack of clarity over how the team will look in the immediate future that seemingly led Rodgers to describe his own future as "uncertain" in his post-game media conference. 

Rodgers may have been over-dramatic in the heat of the moment and another season with the Packers appears more likely than a move elsewhere or his retirement.

But the downcast attitude Rodgers presented after the game was indicative of a quarterback who knows that Super Bowl windows are, for most teams, ephemeral by their nature.

With his fourth-down call, LaFleur ensured another year of the Packers' window slipped through their fingers. If they now struggle to keep a formidable team together and Rodgers' career ends without a second Super Bowl ring, LaFleur's rejection of the bold will be remembered as a key reason why.

Matt LaFleur "sure as hell" hopes Aaron Rodgers returns to play for the Green Bay Packers next season amid doubts over his future after falling short of the Super Bowl, describing the star quarterback as the "heart and soul of our football team".

Rodgers indicated his future is uncertain following Green Bay's 31-26 loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Favourite to be crowned the NFL's MVP, Rodgers was appearing in his first NFC title decider at Lambeau Field as he and the top-seeded Packers looked to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since reigning supreme in the 2010 season.

But the Packers fell short – 37-year-old quarterback Rodgers completing 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and an interception at home to the Buccaneers.

Asked if Rodgers will be back next season, Packers head coach LaFleur told reporters: "I sure as hell hope so. I mean, the guy is the MVP of this league.

"He's the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah. He better be back here. He's our leader."

LaFleur was heavily criticised after his approach during the closing stages of the blockbuster contest against the Buccaneers.

Trailing by eight points with just over two minutes remaining, the Packers were unable to get into the endzone on three attempts from the eight-yard line.

Instead of taking the aggressive approach in backing Rodgers to pull Green Bay within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 31-31, the Packers elected to kick a field goal and while they reduced the deficit, they never got the ball back following a pass interference call on Kevin King.

"Yeah anytime it doesn't work out, you always regret it, right?" LaFleur said. "It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown but you need the two-point [conversion]. The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning.

"We knew we needed to get a stop, and I thought we were going to have a stop there at the end but we got called for [defensive pass interference] and it didn't work out.

"I think anytime something doesn't work out, do you regret it? Sure, but we're always going to be process-driven here and the way our defense was battling, the way our defense was playing, it felt like it was the right decision to do. It just didn't work out."

Aaron Rodgers had no part in the decision to kick a field goal on fourth down of the Green Bay Packers' final drive in their 31-26 NFC Championship Game defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and indicated afterwards that his future is uncertain.

Down eight points with a little over two minutes remaining, the Packers were unable to get into the endzone on three attempts from the eight-yard line in Sunday's title decider.

Instead of taking the aggressive approach in backing star quarterback Rodgers to pull Green Bay within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 31-31, the top-seeded Packers elected to kick a field goal.

That cut the gap to 31-26 but the Packers never got the ball back, a pass interference penalty on Kevin King giving the Buccaneers a first down on the subsequent drive to effectively seal the game.

Asked about the fourth-down call, Rodgers – making his first conference championship game appearance at Lambeau Field – said he had no influence on head coach Matt LaFleur's thinking.

"It wasn't my decision, I understand the thinking, above two minutes with all of our timeouts, but it wasn't my decision," Rodgers, 37, told reporters post-game as Tom Brady's Buccaneers reached the Super Bowl.

Rodgers added of the penalty on King: "I think it was a bad call, I think there were a few opportunities for some plays down the field for us that weren't called.

"I was surprised that call in that situation was made. We get the ball back there with 1:35 [remaining] and a timeout and a chance to win the game, go to the Super Bowl, didn't look like it [Brady's pass] was even catchable. It was a bad call."

Though he will likely receive the MVP award next week, Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion with the Packers in the 2010 season – hinted his time in Green Bay could soon be coming to a close following a second successive defeat at the NFC Championship stage.

Last year's first-round pick Jordan Love is waiting in the wings as the two-time MVP's successor under center.

"I'm just pretty gutted, it's a long season, you put so much into it," said Rodgers. "We had our chances, it's a different position to the last couple of these where we got blown out and didn't really have a chance. We had a lot of chances.

"The uncertainty of it all, the abruptness, so many futures a little grey right now, so it's definitely sudden.

"A lot of guys' futures are uncertain, myself included. That's what's sad about it, getting this far, obviously there's going to be an end to it at some point.

"Just the uncertainty is tough, the finality of it all. There's a lot of unknowns going into this offseason and I'm going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what's going on with everything.

"It's pretty tough right now. It's really, really tough to get to this point, it's a grind just to get to this point and that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a tonne of bricks. I'll always be thankful for this season."

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers said he is relishing his first NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.

For the first time in his stellar career, Rodgers will play a conference title game at home when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit on Sunday, with his four previous NFC deciders coming on the road.

Tom Brady's Buccaneers stand in the way of MVP favourite Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers reaching their first NFL showpiece since winning Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

It is set to me a memorable matchup for Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP Rodgers, who told reporters on Friday: "It's historic, it's definitely historic, there's nothing like it.

"I've played in just about every stadium now and been a lover for the NFL for most of my life, definitely most of my life that I remember and dreamt about it, playing in this stadium, since I watched those VHS tapes of the Green Bay Packers and the Ice Bowl, Bart Starr, Max McGee, Paul Hornung, Fuzzy, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, that's what I dreamt about, being a part of an organisation with that kind of excellence.

"Vince Lombardi, all the quotes that he has that still resonate to this day. The trophy is named after him for a reason. Our city is nicknamed 'Titletown' for a reason. It's a special place to play. I've never lost that perspective. I think my perspective is slightly adjusted on some other things this year but I've never forgotten where I play, where I live and I'm very proud of that."

Rodgers recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

The 37-year-old Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

The Packers, meanwhile, are 15-1 in home games against the Buccaneers since 1990 – including postseason encounters.

According to Stats Perform, the Packers are in the midst of their longest streak in NFL history without a takeaway (four successive playoff games), while a win would see Green Bay tie the New England Patriots for most all-time postseason wins with 37.

Green Bay is notorious for cold weather and snow, and Rodgers was asked about the difficulty of playing in such conditions as he ages.

"I can say this year, based on the games we've had and the practice outside it hasn't felt any different than years past," Rodgers said. "The cold is still cold. It's bone chilling - not maybe as miserable as Chicago. That weather, when that bone chilling like effect happens, that's tough, that's really tough. But Green Bay ... we embrace our cold weather.

"I haven't noticed any big difference now. I almost enjoy it more, you've heard me say it, authentically. Man, I want it as cold as possible. I don't feel like it's an issue the older you get. We'll see if it gets down to minus 20 at some point. - maybe I can give you a better answer!" 

Tom Brady is braced for a "big test" against Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eye a home Super Bowl.

It will be a battle of the titans when six-time NFL Super Bowl champion Brady and the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field, where they will face Rodgers' Packers in the NFC decider on Sunday.

Brady – who has as many playoff wins since turning 35 as any other quarterback in his career, while he has 32 in total, twice as many as any other QB – will start his 14th conference championship in the Buccaneers-Packers blockbuster.

The 43-year-old superstar and the Buccaneers, however, will come up against Rodgers – who is tipped to be crowned the NFL MVP.

Two-time MVP Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career, with his four previous NFC Championship appearances coming on the road.

Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history en route to the NFC showpiece. Per Stats Perform, the 37-year-old has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history.

Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most TD passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

Sunday's winner will advance to February 7's Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium – home of the Buccaneers – and when asked about Rodgers on Friday, Brady told reporters: "He basically does everything well. He has great command and experience, leadership, players are playing hard.

"He has a great style of play. He obviously throws the ball as well as any quarterback. Gets rid of the ball quickly. Has great vision of the field. He is able to extend plays with his legs. He has a lot of explosive plays.

"A great football team. Top-scoring offense. It's a big test. We are going to have to play great football to beat them."

The Buccaneers head into the clash on the back of wins away to the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints.

Tampa Bay are also riding a seven-game winning streak on the road – the longest run in franchise history, while the Buccaneers have nine straight games with 24-plus points and five in succession with 30-plus points – both the longest in team history, per Stats Perform.

"Love working with my team-mates. We've all worked hard," Brady said. "To play in a championship game is a great experience. I love being able to do that with this group of guys who've worked hard to get to this point. We had some rough moments but we've won two road games and will have to win a third if we want to continue playing.

"It's a tough test. A great team we're playing. Not an easy task but we will have to figure out a way."

Brady, whose Buccaneers are looking to become the fifth team all-time to win three road games in a single postseason, added: "Everyone knows what's at stake. You don't get to this point, you don't get one game and get here, you gotta go through a whole process to do it and our team has done that… we have a chance to get back home for a home Super Bowl, which would be a cool thing."

The Green Bay Packers stand between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Super Bowl appearance in their own stadium.

In Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, two of the NFL's most revered quarterbacks will go head to head in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Both QBs are in the MVP conversation, and Rodgers will be hoping to guide the Packers to the Super Bowl for a second time, having fallen at the penultimate hurdle three times since lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the 2010 season.

But he is up against a veteran opponent with unparalleled experience deep in the playoffs in Brady, setting the stage for a battle for the ages.
 

Looking back

Green Bay had season worsts in points scored (10), points allowed (38) and total yards (201) in a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 6. It was the Packers' only defeat by more than seven points this season and Rodgers' 35.4 passer rating was his third-lowest in a start in his career. The only previous postseason matchup between the teams – who were NFC Central rivals from 1977 to 2001 – came in the 1997 Divisional Round, and that was a 21-7 Packers home win.

Championship form

While the Packers have suffered defeat in three straight NFC Championship Games, all of those were played on the road. Not only are they at home on this occasion, they enter the game amid a prolific run that has seen them score at least 20 points in 21 straight postseason outings – the longest streak in NFL history. For the Bucs, this is just their fourth NFC Championship Game of all time, though their last appearance provided a road win over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002. Tampa Bay could become the first team in the Super Bowl era to reach the Super Bowl, which this year will take place at their Raymond James Stadium, in the season they ended a playoff drought of at least 12 years.

The QB battle

In Green Bay's 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, Rodgers had his eighth postseason game with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions. The only quarterback with more? That's right, Brady (13). Rodgers is up to 50 TD passes for the season, making him the sixth different QB to reach that mark in a single campaign, but no one knows conference championship games better than Brady, who is set to make his 14th start in such games – twice as many as Joe Montana, who has the next most at seven. The 43-year-old is proving that age is just a number. After throwing his only two road game interceptions in Week 1, Brady has gone 368 consecutive pass attempts on the road without being picked off – an NFL record.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur warned of Tom Brady's "great feel" ahead of the blockbuster NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It will be a battle of the titans when Aaron Rodgers leads the top-seeded Packers at home to Brady's Buccaneers, with a Super Bowl berth on the line on Sunday.

Brady – a six-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots – will start his 14th conference championship when the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field.

The 43-year-old superstar has more conference championship wins (nine) than any other quarterback has starts, per NFL Research.

LaFleur is wary of the four-time Super Bowl MVP, telling reporters on Thursday: "I think every game plan is a little bit different, but he's got such a great feel.

"He knows when to get the ball out. Whether you're rushing four or five it doesn't matter. If he feels that rush he gets the ball out of his hands and conversely, if you're rushing four and you're not hitting home he'll hold the ball as long as he needs to, to allow people to get open.

"That's just one of those things that I think is tough to coach. Some guys have great feel in the pocket and that's a tremendous luxury when you have a guy like that."

Not since winning Super Bowl XLV have the Packers reached the showpiece event – beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game, having also lost title deciders in 2017 and 2015.

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round – his four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road.

Green Bay's Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Rams.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

MVP favourite Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

"I think when he speaks he is so well thought out in what he says and he has such a great delivery to our team I think everybody really, truly, takes it to heart," LaFleur said of the two-time MVP.

"Obviously he's a huge part of our football team both on the field and in that locker room. I think those just kind of naturally occur, whatever feels natural in the moment. He's a guy that everybody on this football teams looks to in terms of that leadership role."

On Rodgers and Brady, added: "They've seen everything. There's not a lot you can throw at them that they haven't seen. Now, the whole key is that I think a lot of times when you're playing quarterbacks like this you've got to make sure that you have identical looks, or shells, or contours and you're switching the picture on them on the snap of the ball. I think that's always imperative any time you're playing quarterbacks of this calibre."

The Green Bay Packers have paid tribute to Ted Thompson, the Super Bowl-winning general manager who drafted Aaron Rodgers, after he passed away.

Thompson died on Wednesday, aged 68.

The former Houston Oilers linebacker spent eight years with Green Bay's personnel department up to 1999 before heading to Seattle for five seasons as the Seahawks' vice president of football operations.

The Packers had already won a title during Thompson's initial stint and he returned in 2005 for a successful run as GM.

Thompson built the team that won the Super Bowl XLV championship, including taking stalwart quarterback Rodgers in his first draft and hiring head coach Mike McCarthy.

Brian Gutekunst succeeded Thompson in 2018 and led the response to news of his passing on Thursday.

"Ted was a man of great character and integrity who cared deeply for his family and friends," said the incumbent GM.

"He was honest and hard-working. He valued his scouts and always did what he felt was right for the Packers organisation.

"I learned a great deal from Ted and will always be appreciative for the opportunity he gave me.

"He was a football man and a scout's scout, but more importantly, he was a very special person who will be greatly missed."

Coach Matt LaFleur, who is preparing his team to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, added: "He's a guy that's held in the highest regard in this building and I think just around the league.

"His impact is still felt to this day when you look at our roster.

"I think he's had a tremendous impact amongst many people across the league when you look at all the other GMs that have learned under him."

Thompson's name will be installed on the Lambeau Field facade ahead of the 2021 season "to honour his contributions to the organisation's success and recognise his legacy", the Packers announced.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers insisted there is no additional pressure as the NFL franchise look to end their Super Bowl absence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers will host Tom Brady's Buccaneers in Sunday's blockbuster NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.

Not since winning Super Bowl XLV have the Packers reached the showpiece event – beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game, having also lost title deciders in 2017 and 2015.

But MVP favourite Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday: "No more pressure than usual. I think a lot of times the storylines, pressure and those kinds of comments are good stuff for you guys to write about, but I think it starts with the mentality and focus.

"Obviously I put pressure on myself to perform every single week, and I think there's a lot to be said for being able to harness that pressure and fear of failure and focus into a real positive. That's something you learn over the years. But I don't feel any extra pressure going into this one.

"Definitely thankful to be back here. A lot of people didn't think we'd be back here after last season. We got a lot of interesting comments last year about us being the worst 13-3 team that people had seen. Not the same type of comments this [time]. Obviously we're clicking a lot better on offense, I do feel really thankful to be back here, thankful for the chance to be playing."

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round – his four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road.

Green Bay's Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Rams.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

Brady and the Buccaneers stand in the way of Rodgers and just his second Super Bowl berth, with many feeling the upcoming encounter could be the latter's best chance at progressing past the NFC Championship for the first time in a decade.

But the 37-year-old Rodgers – a two-time MVP and nine-time Pro Bowler – said: "I'm always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments. I hope there's more opportunities, but I don't know. I mean, I really don't. That stuff is out of my control.

"My future is a beautiful mystery I think. The present is such a gift to be able to stay in the moment and to have gratitude for being in this situation again, and being with the guys and having fans in our stadium and maybe snow in an NFC Championship Game. I'm going to enjoy these moments for sure, and just not worry about what happens down the line."

Aaron Rodgers is relishing the opportunity to feature in a long-awaited NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field after the Green Bay Packers downed the Los Angeles Rams.

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Rams in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

Top MVP candidate Rodgers finished 23-of-36 passing for 296 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks, while the Super Bowl champion rushed for another TD.

Either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New Orleans Saints await the Packers in Green Bay on January 24 – the winner progressing to the Super Bowl – and star quarterback Rodgers is excited.

"It means a lot. [Former Packers receiver] Jordy [Nelson] and I talked about it years ago. Made a lot of starts in this league without hosting the NFC Championship," Rodgers – whose four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road – told reporters when asked what it meant to host the title game in Green Bay.

"Hopefully it is a little colder than it was tonight. The fans were special and the energy was special. There is a home-field advantage. The fact we get to host, can't say sleep in our own bed because there is still an antiquated idea of staying in a hotel the night before a game instead of your warm, cosy six-night a week bed. I know COVID-19 is involved in that. I'm still salty about that antiquated idea.

"But it is meaningful to have fans at the game. Hopefully we can get even more if this worked out. It will be exciting. Enjoy this tonight, celebrate and to watch tomorrow, knowing whoever wins is coming to our place."

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, less than 9,000 fans were allowed to attend the Packers-Rams matchup in Green Bay, where Rodgers recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (10).

Rodgers – whose Green Bay are eyeing their first Super Bowl crown since 2010 – also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

"It felt like 50,000 when we ran out of the tunnel, it really did," Rodgers said. "It was such a special moment. Forgot how much you truly, truly miss having a crowd there ... it felt like, 50,000, 60,000."

Rodgers added: ''I'm definitely a little emotional, just thinking about what we've been through. It got me emotional with the crowd out there today.''

Page 8 of 9
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.